While studying law, whether in the UK itself or through the University of London external programme, the prospect of undertaking additional activities involving law seems unappetising. Most people would prefer to do something diverting during the little free time that they have. However, in my opinion, ever aspiring Barrister should find time to get involved with mooting.
As Oxford University Press succinctly puts it “mooting is the oral presentation of a legal issue or problem against an opposing counsel and before a judge.” More than debating or Model United Nations, it is essential for the aspiring advocate as “it is perhaps the closest experience that a student can have whilst at university to appearing in court.” The beneficial qualities of mooting can be summarised as follows:
- Confidence in public speaking: While at University, even if one studies Law, it is possible to graduate without doing much public speaking: sitting quietly at the back of the class, not speaking in seminars till spoken to, etc. In large Universities, it is often the case that a student has to go out of their way to get public-speaking experience, either by joining a relevant society/club or taking on a leadership role. However, aspiring Barristers are expected to go out of their way to gain such experience, as it allows them to begin honing their public-speaking abilities from a young age. Mooting provides a more intense experience that debating or Model United Nations as it requires participants to make persuasive submissions using legal arguments and documents, under the stern gaze of judges, who are often practitioners themselves. The length of time one is allocated to speak in a moot is also longer than the time granted to speakers in most debates and MUNs and that time has to be marshalled carefully, as a speaker has to complete their submissions while also responding to the interjections of the judge(s). Whether a participant wins or loses a moot, it is inevitable that from the heat of such a crucible, the participant emerges as a better advocate, aware of their weaknesses and confident about their strengths.
- Enhanced research skills: It is possible that during a Law degree, a student may snore and day-dream their way through Tort, Property and Criminal Law. While revision guides and classmates’ notes may have helped students pass their end-of-year exams, similar short-cut methods are not available for mooters. Preparing for a moot requires participants to become thoroughly familiar with the law relevant to the dispute, which often means trawling through practitioners’ and students’ textbooks and reams of case law. Extensive research is absolutely crucial as it contributes to one’s understanding of the dispute; persuasiveness of their submissions; strength of their skeleton argument; anticipation of an opponent’s arguments and response to judge’s questions. Judges, in particular, will ask awkward legal questions to test an advocate’s knowledge of the area of law in dispute and so it is necessary to be well prepared. Especially at the latter stages of a mooting competition, where all the mooters are adept advocates, the quality of research can separate the winners from those who come second best. Additionally, doing such research in the library or on Lexis Nexis and Westlaw obviously spills over into one’s academics – so the benefits are not merely extra-curricular!
- Learning Law: I don’t know about most people but first year criminal law is a bit of a blur for me. What I do remember though is that we studied provocation in great detail, largely because it was about to be abolished as a defence; which meant that it was a topic of academic interest but of little practical use. I can clearly recall the relevant case law related to this topic and its usage as a defence, not because I wrote an assessment on it but because my first moot’s problem question was based on it. Spending hours reading cases like Ahluwalia, Thornton, etc. meant that the case names would be seared into my memory; vivid in my mind even after four years. To prepare for the moot, I also read a number of journal articles, so that I could learn how provocation was used as a defence is English and Commonwealth jurisdictions. Thus, I learned about criminal law in a much deeper way than if I had just studied for it in class. The competitive element also adds interest and makes the blandest of legal subjects seem more palatable and interesting. Furthermore, once you have done a number of moots on a variety of topics, you may discover that you enjoy a particular type of law. This may be invaluable to you in the future, when you come to decide what you would like to specialise in during your Master’s or what kind of law you would like to practise.
- Improved career prospects: In an increasingly demanding job market, substantial mooting experience is highly desirable on one’s CV and in some cases is required. Winning a moot or two, or even getting to the knock out stages of large moots, adds considerable weight to your resume. Additionally, when appearing for job interviews, mooting topics provide you with something to talk about with your prospective employer as you are likely to be able to discuss these legal issues confidently, without feeling that you are making a fool of yourself! Having said that, I would advise exercising caution, as it may very well be that the Barrister (or Solicitor) you are speaking to was involved in one of the key cases related to that legal topic.
- Networking: A person’s first moot is usually an intra-University competition; a moot involving one’s Law School peers. Following the first few moots and the first few victories, participants may move into bigger regional, national and international moots. As you would imagine, the participants of such moots are among the best students of their respective Universities and the judges are from the actual judiciary. To provide some examples, I participated in the Thomas A. Finlay Moot in Dublin during my 2nd year and the judges there included law professors and judges of the Irish High Court and Supreme Court. Similarly, a Mooting competition I participated in in Delhi was adjudicated by members of the Indian High Court and Supreme Court Bench and my alma mater Warwick’s own competition final is often judged by a Justice of the UK Supreme Court. This provides an invaluable opportunity for participants to mingle, network and impress respected members of the legal community and build contacts for the future. It is entirely possible that the person who judges your moot one day may be the same person who interviews you for a job on another day!
- Opportunities to travel: This is a minor point compared to the above. If one prospers in mooting competitions, very soon doors open up for participation in grander, international competitions. The two biggest international competitions are Jessup’s International Law Moot and VIS International Commercial Arbitration Moot but there are a number of others throughout the world. While it can be quite expensive to participate in these moots, it is often possible to find sponsors for such prestigious events. Therefore, along with the mooting and networking experience mentioned above, one gets to visit a different country and culture.
I should clarify that mooting is not a substitute for legal experience (i.e. para-legal work, mini-pupillages, marshalling) and actual advocacy (i.e. appearing in front of an Employment Tribunal). In addition to accumulating mooting experience throughout University and on the Bar course, one should seek to gain the above experiences as well.
My next post will be on how students can arrange their own moot.
I leave you with a video introducing Mooting, produced by Bond University in Australia